FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The governor is meeting with oil executives in Oklahoma and Texas this week to discuss developing Alaska's natural gas supplies on the North Slope.
Gov. Tony Knowles was to meet with executives of Phillips Petroleum Co. in Oklahoma Tuesday, said Claire Richardson, Knowles' deputy press secretary. On Wednesday, he will travel to Houston to meet with BP, Exxon Mobil and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
''They'll be updating the governor on their plans for Alaska oil and gas development,'' Richardson said. ''Secondly, they'll be discussing corporate strategies for gas development in context with their global plans.''
Richardson said that no specific agreements are expected to result from the meetings.
Department of Revenue Commissioner Wilson Condon, who has been taking the lead among state officials on the gas issue, will accompany the governor, Richardson said.
Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Ed Flanagan also is attending the meetings, with an interest toward securing Alaska construction and Alaska hire.
Pat Pourchot, the new Department of Natural Resources commissioner, is also accompanying the governor.
Interest has grown recently in tapping the North Slope's natural gas reserves, most of which now is reinjected to spur oil production.
Knowles said earlier the price increases this year are providing the incentive to finally push through a decades old plan to pipe natural gas from Alaska to the rest of the country. Alaska has more than 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available, but no way to transport it.
Knowles stated in August that he believes Alaskans can be breaking ground on a natural gas project within two years.
''There's no denying America is hungry for natural gas, and our state is perfectly positioned to provide it,'' Richardson said. ''The governor sees our challenge as safeguarding the interests of Alaskans as we work with industry.''
The three companies that own 95 percent of Alaska's natural gas reserves -- BP, Phillips and Exxon -- said at a Senate hearing last month that next year they should pick a project to move that gas to market. If all goes well, the gas could be sold starting in 2007.
Exactly what route the pipeline would take is still under discussion. A pipeline into Canada that would link with pipe networks in southern Canada and the Lower 48 would cost at least $10 billion, most of which likely would be spent in Alaska.
The companies that own the natural gas are also considering a buried undersea pipeline that would run 325 miles east from Prudhoe Bay, then a line along the MacKenzie River that would tap Canadian gas fields along the way.
Knowles has not said which of the pipeline routes under discussion he prefers.
Richardson said there should be an announcement on the state's preferred alternative ''soon.'' She declined to provide a more specific timeframe.
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